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Why Sales Training Fails (And What You Can Do About It)

By Norman Behar

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According to the American Society of Training and Development, US based companies spend approximately $20 billion a year on sales training. Yet many sales organizations get low ROIs from their sales training initiatives.

A common problem with many sales training initiatives is that they are event based (i.e., intensive, multi-day training events) where participants typically forget much of what they learned shortly after the training event.

Another reason why sales training fails is that sales organizations don’t get the frontline sales managers actively involved in the training, reinforcement, and measurement process.

1. Lack of Sales Training Reinforcement

Research has consistently demonstrated that without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, participants quickly forget what they learned and revert back to their original behaviors.

According to one study, approximately 50% of learning content is not retained within five weeks, and within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost.

Ongoing application and practice make a new skill a habit. So in order to maximize the investment in sales training, companies should consider a fully integrated approach to reinforcement that consists of:

  • Facilitated reinforcement
  • Sales coaching of the participants by the frontline managers
  • On-demand reinforcement using eLearning
  • Tools and job aides.

At a minimum, facilitated reinforcement sessions should occur within 30- to 60-day intervals following the initial training. The sessions should allow participants to review and apply skills, share best practices, and fill knowledge gaps. Participants should also receive positive reinforcement for successfully using new skills in the field.

2. Sales Management Not Actively Involved in Training

Perhaps one of the most effective methods to ensure that sales professionals are applying new sales skills on the job is to have their frontline sales managers provide them with ongoing sales coaching. According to the Corporate Executive Board, effective sales coaching can potentially increase top-line revenue by up to 20 percent. With such potential benefits it is no wonder that many sales organizations recommend that their frontline sales managers spend 25% – 45% of their time sales coaching.

Unfortunately, we find that many sales managers have difficulty with sales coaching. Remember, many sales managers were formerly successful sales professionals before being promoted into sales management. For them selling came naturally and they often cannot understand why one of their team members isn’t “getting it.”

Fortunately, sales coaching is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected. To ensure that these skills are learned and adopted, sales organizations should include sales coaching for their sales managers as part of their sales training initiatives. In addition, the sales organization should set clear expectations as to the amount of time it expects sales managers to spend coaching their sales representatives.

With ongoing coaching and reinforcement companies will achieve a much greater return on their sales training investments over time, thus increasing the success rate and effectiveness of today’s sales professionals and tomorrow’s sales leaders.

Download to better understand the impact of sales training

About Norman Behar

Norman Behar
Norman Behar is the CEO of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.

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